BBC Cornwall: Living with anxiety

Image caption People with an anxiety disorder find it hard to control their worries

Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear and can be mild or severe.

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, for example, feeling worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job interview.

On Wednesday 6 June, as part of Laurence Reed's lunchtime programme on BBC Radio Cornwall, a team of experts will be on hand to discuss anxiety and answer your questions. To take part in the phone in, call 01872 22 22 22 from midday.

According to the Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, feeling anxious is sometimes perfectly normal. However, people with an anxiety disorder find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and often affect their daily life.

When anxiety affects daily life in this way, it is called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). This is a long-term condition which causes anxious feelings about a range of situations and issues rather than one specific thing.

Sleep difficulties

People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms.

These vary from person to person, but can include feeling irritable or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.

Some people have only one or two symptoms, while others have many more.

GAD can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things.

Psychological symptoms include:

• Restlessness and impatience

• a sense of dread

• feeling constantly "on edge"

• difficulty concentrating or being easily distracted

• irritability

While physical symptoms include:

• dizziness, headaches or nausea

• drowsiness and tiredness

• pins and needles

• irregular heartbeat (palpitations)

• difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)

A combination of these symptoms may cause withdrawal from family and friends to avoid feelings of worry and dread. Going to work can also be difficult and stressful, resulting in time off sick. This can further reduce self-esteem.

How common is anxiety?

GAD affects about one in 20 adults in Britain. Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is most common in people in their 20s.

How is anxiety treated?

Several different treatments are available to ease the psychological and physical symptoms. These include psychological therapy and medication.

The individual circumstances will depend on which treatment or combination of treatments work best. Studies of different treatments for GAD have found that the benefits of psychological treatment last the longest, but no single treatment is best for everyone.

Before any treatment is started the GP will discuss all the treatment options including the pros and cons and any possible risks or side effects.

Self help

There are things which people can do themselves to help to ease the symptoms of anxiety.

• Exercise - particularly aerobic exercise, help combat stress and release tension. It also encourages your brain to release the chemical serotonin, which can improve your mood.

• Relaxation - learn how to relax, breathing exercises or activities like yoga or pilates can help.

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